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Two years ago, we launched the St. Louis Crime Tracker, which maps crimes and changes in crime by neighborhood. Since then, readers have repeatedly asked: “When will the Crime Tracker show what’s happening in St. Louis County?”

It’s been no easy task, but we’ve finally done it.

What was the holdup? Fragmentation.

With more than 50 different police departments in the county, requesting crime statistics separately from each department each month would be overwhelming.

Instead, we rely on a single source for monthly crime totals: the Missouri Highway Patrol’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

All departments are required by state statute to submit monthly reports to the highway patrol, which then sends the data to the FBI. We use this standardized data to power our Crime Tracker.

Unfortunately, limitations result in some gray areas on our map of St. Louis County.

One is that sometimes departments are slow to submit reports to the highway patrol, missing the deadline by a month or more. In extreme cases, a department might never submit a report, leaving that department’s data permanently incomplete in our Crime Tracker.

Boundaries on the map may look confusing. That’s because the Crime Tracker is organized by police department rather than by municipality.

We do this to accurately reflect who polices what. For example, St. John police also patrol Sycamore Hills, and the North County Police Cooperative currently patrols eight municipalities. (It will be seven as of Oct. 15.)

Patrol contracts can change over time. A municipality might seek better service or a lower cost — or a municipality might cease to exist, as Mackenzie did this year. These changes can skew year-over-year comparisons of crime data.

We know readers love the Crime Tracker’s maps of individual city neighborhoods showing the locations of the previous month’s crime incidents.

Now, using data from the St. Louis County police’s Bureau of Research and Analysis, we offer similar maps for St. Louis County — but only parts of it.

The incident data we receive include only the unincorporated areas and municipalities that are patrolled by county police, plus departments that have agreed to share crime information with county police.

If a municipality doesn’t have details on individual crimes and you would like to see it, email jrenaud@post-dispatch.com. We will continue to seek more data from the county’s police departments.

Despite the challenges and caveats, we thought this was an important service to take on for our readers. You asked, and we listened.

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